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Using a systems orientation and foundational theory to enhance theory-driven human service program evaluations


  • Wasserman, Deborah L.


This paper offers a framework for using a systems orientation and "foundational theory" to enhance theory-driven evaluations and logic models. The framework guides the process of identifying and explaining operative relationships and perspectives within human service program systems. Self-Determination Theory exemplifies how a foundational theory can be used to support the framework in a wide range of program evaluations. Two examples illustrate how applications of the framework have improved the evaluators' abilities to observe and explain program effect. In both exemplars improvements involved addressing and organizing into a single logic model heretofore seemingly disparate evaluation issues regarding valuing (by whose values); the role of organizational and program context; and evaluation anxiety and utilization.

Suggested Citation

  • Wasserman, Deborah L., 2010. "Using a systems orientation and foundational theory to enhance theory-driven human service program evaluations," Evaluation and Program Planning, Elsevier, vol. 33(2), pages 67-80, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:epplan:v:33:y:2010:i:2:p:67-80

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Peter Schmuck & Tim Kasser & Richard Ryan, 2000. "Intrinsic and Extrinsic Goals: Their Structure and Relationship to Well-Being in German and U.S. College Students," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 50(2), pages 225-241, May.
    2. Wandersman, Abraham & Imm, Pamela & Chinman, Matthew & Kaftarian, Shakeh, 2000. "Getting to outcomes: a results-based approach to accountability," Evaluation and Program Planning, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 389-395, August.
    3. Schalock, Robert L. & Bonham, Gordon S., 2003. "Measuring outcomes and managing for results," Evaluation and Program Planning, Elsevier, vol. 26(3), pages 229-235, August.
    4. Cabrera, Derek & Colosi, Laura & Lobdell, Claire, 2008. "Systems thinking," Evaluation and Program Planning, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 299-310, August.
    5. Kaplan, Sue A. & Garrett, Katherine E., 2005. "The use of logic models by community-based initiatives," Evaluation and Program Planning, Elsevier, vol. 28(2), pages 167-172, May.
    6. Wasserman, Deborah L., 2008. "A Response to paper "Systems Thinking" by D. Cabrera et al.: Next steps, a human service program system exemplar," Evaluation and Program Planning, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 327-329, August.
    7. McLaughlin, John A. & Jordan, Gretchen B., 1999. "Logic models: a tool for telling your programs performance story," Evaluation and Program Planning, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 65-72.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gates, Emily F., 2016. "Making sense of the emerging conversation in evaluation about systems thinking and complexity science," Evaluation and Program Planning, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 62-73.
    2. Schalock, Robert L. & Lee, Tim & Verdugo, Miguel & Swart, Kees & Claes, Claudia & van Loon, Jos & Lee, Chun-Shin, 2014. "An evidence-based approach to organization evaluation and change in human service organizations evaluation and program planning," Evaluation and Program Planning, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 110-118.


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